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First Kristin Baker Exhibition in an American Museum Opens at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Installation view. Kristin Baker: New Paintings Exhibition at the Community Arts and SMFA Gallery E, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

BOSTON, MA.- Exhilarating speed, sweeping movement, and floating shards of translucent color are among the signature elements Kristin Baker incorporates in her paintings to capture the interplay of light, motion, and space. Four large-scale works by the artist, on view for the first time, will be showcased at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) in Kristin Baker: New Paintings, her first solo exhibition at an American museum. Presented from October 2, 2010, to March 27, 2011, the show launches the Museum’s ongoing exhibition series highlighting graduates of the past decade from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), whose work is internationally known for its innovation and influence on contemporary art. Baker graduated from the SMFA and Tufts University in 1998. Kristin Baker: New Paintings is supported by the Museum Council Artist in Residency Program Fund. The Museum Council, MFA supporters between the ages of 21 and 45, endowed this program to promote direct engagement with living artists and their art at the Museum.

Kristin Baker: New Paintings showcases monumental works created by Baker in 2010 specifically for the MFA’s Community Arts and SMFA Gallery, a new exhibition space in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. The artist visited the Museum earlier this year and her paintings respond to the dynamic qualities of light, volume, edge, and motion in this gallery adjacent to the Herb Ritts Gallery for photography. Both are located on the first floor of the wing, which was designed by I.M. Pei in 1981.

Baker is known as much for her artistic process as for the distinctive work she creates. Although her paintings have a spontaneous quality, her execution is carefully planned and sequenced. The artist’s non-traditional approach favors plastic on plastic in place of brushes on canvas. With palette knives and squeegees in hand, she glides fast-drying acrylic paints across slippery sheets of opaque PVC or clear acrylic. Some areas are masked with tape as an outline for straight lines or ripped edges. With these mark-making methods, she layers combinations of matte and gloss paint in more subtle or vibrant hues. Her resulting images explore how differently natural and artificial light might reflect and define flat and deep space. Baker builds abstract, almost sculptural shapes for a “collaged” effect that creates the illusion of light as it bounces or is absorbed, surfaces that recede or advance, and spaces either shallow or deep, all with a sense of tension in balance.

“These paintings are really about light and materiality, the balance between mark and image,” explains Baker. “They explore different types of light: artificial, natural, processed, and a combination of the three.”

The focal point of Kristin Baker: New Paintings is Full Dawn Parallax (all works 2010, Courtesy of the artist and Suzanne Geiss Co., New York), measuring over 9 ½ x 8 feet, and 15 inches deep and made on clear acrylic with a powder coated aluminum frame. The painting echoes the physicality of its surroundings—the curved lines of the balcony above, the sunlight pouring through the rectangular glass ceiling, and the hard edges of the wing’s soaring concrete beams and columns—capturing the essence of the gallery space below. The ebb and flow of light over the painting, and changes in an observer’s position when contemplating the work, evoke an abstracted sense of “parallax” as observed from up close, the side, above, or at a distance.

Next to this painting, and across from the Herb Ritts Gallery for photography, is Within Refraction, a work on opaque PVC (measuring 6 ½ x 10 feet). For this piece, Baker layered lines of charcoal and acrylic paint at angles that suggest the capture and compression of light in a photographic image. Drawing on the idea of “refraction”—the distortion of an image viewed through a lens—Baker’s painting can be seen as both the image and the medium that distorts it. Two other works on opaque PVC share an adjacent elongated wall in the gallery. The first, Rime Affinity (8 x 6 ½ feet) plays upon the double meanings often found in the poetic titles Baker invents for her works—with “rime” being the frosty coating on a surface, and “rhyme” the pairing of words with similar ending sounds. The painting’s pale hues—reflected in icy vertical shafts—and clean edges suggest that it can rhyme and echo itself. Baker’s other work on opaque PVC, Matter Facture (6½ x 8 feet), brings into focus her distinctive process of making art, the matter of her “facture,” for which she is recognized, highlighting how the choices she makes when conceiving and executing her work inform her paintings’ meanings.

“I have long admired how Baker draws our attention to painting as both an image and an action with a contemporary sense of speed and complexity. Her inspired new works incorporate marks of subtler control and bolder risk to create more abstract, almost paradoxical effects—like folded light, dense space, or floating matter—in the way only a painting can. We are thrilled this exhibition has sparked a new direction for Baker, and for the MFA,” said Jen Mergel, the MFA’s Robert L. Beal, Enid L. Beal and Bruce A. Beal Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, who organized the exhibition.

A native of Stamford, Connecticut, Baker was born in 1975 to parents fascinated with the world of race-car driving, which influenced much of her early professional work with images of wild acceleration and exploding colors. She moved to Boston in the late 1990s to enroll in the joint program offered by the SMFA and Tufts. In 1997, just prior to her 1998 graduation, she moved to New York to paint, and then furthered her education at Yale University, where she earned her master of fine arts degree in 2002. Now based in Brooklyn, Baker has had solo exhibitions at Centre George Pompidou in Paris (2004), Acme Gallery in Los Angeles (2005), and Deitch Projects in New York (2003, 2007 and 2009). She has also shown her work in a variety of group exhibitions, including those at the Whitney Museum at Altria in New York, Denver Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Saatchi Gallery in London, and MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York.

Museum of Fine Arts | Boston | Kristin Baker | Jen Mergel |

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